The assumption is that if you’re interested in this topic, you haven’t inherited arms through some ancestor (typically father). If you have, then perhaps you’ll be interested in a previous post on cadency.
If you’re still reading then you don’t currently have arms and would like to become armigerous. Let me start by saying that you don’t have to be a member of nobility to have arms. However, depending on where you live, you may have to jump through a few hoops to get them and it may cost you.
In countries where heraldry is tightly controlled, such as England, Scotland, Canada, Ireland and South Africa, one may apply to the local heraldic authority for a grant of arms. The beauty of this approach is that the obtained coat of arms is granted by a government authority, registered, guaranteed to be unique (in the jurisdiction) and finally come with Letters Patent. On the other hand, the downside is that these cost a substantial amount of time and may take up to 2 or 3 years from application to receipt of the Letters Patent. It should be noted that in some cases one can petition for arms at the heraldic authority of choice provided the appropriate criteria are met (usually descent from the country in question).
In the other countries, such as the United States, free assumption of arms is the norm. It can be as simple as putting together a shield and using it all the way to consulting with heraldic artists (amateur or professional) to come up with it. After creating the arms, it is highly recommended that they get registered with one or more of the many registries that exist.
Another service these registries offer is the creation of arms and part of the package is to register them as well as design them.
Heraldic authorities where one can petition for arms:
- England – College of Arms
- Scotland – Lyon Court
- Canada – Canadian Heraldic Authority
- Ireland – Office of the Chief Herald
- South Africa – South Africa Bureau of Heraldry
Online locations where one can request assistance for a new coat of arms:
- United Stated Heraldic Registry
- American College of Arms
- International Association of Amateur Heralds
- American Heraldry Society